Volunteer fire companies in Pennsylvania have seen declining numbers of firefighters for decades. Now a new law aimed at getting more young people involved is already paying off for departments in Monroe County.
Meet Monroe County’s first-ever 17-year-old interior firefighters.
Marshalls Creek Volunteer Firefighter Dominic Celis says, "It’s a lot of adrenaline."
Stroud Township Volunteer Firefighter Michael Stettler says, "It helps out the community."
Stroud Township Volunteer Firefighter Jordan Smalley says, "I grew up around it."
Up until this year in Pennsylvania, no one under the age of 18 could participate in a live-burn. So those who were a year younger would be stuck waiting to complete the essentials training classes.
Monroe County Public Safety Center Training/Operations Director TJ Knapp says, "There’s no time gap in between. Kids lose interest and hopefully this keeps them engaged. Kids also go to college and get busy and they don’t really have the time to come back and complete it. So now you know, we can get them through it, they can go off to college, they can come back and serve their communities."
Now those three teens will be a major asset as soon as they turn 18 to their home fire companies.
Marshalls Creek Vol. Fire Co. Assistant Chief Eugene Berry Sr. says, "We know in Monroe County, as in everywhere else, firefighters, interior firefighters are at a premium so this has been a great boost."
All three have plans of continuing to serve throughout their lives whether career or volunteer. We’re told they have more than just a love for the job, it’s in their blood.
Celis says, "My dad was in the fire company for awhile and I wanted to follow in his footsteps, just like my brother and I’ve been wanting to do it since I was like five."
And it’s all they’ve ever known. Smalley has been running calls with his dad in Stroud Township since he can remember.
Smalley says, "Usually I’d ask or he’d just say hop in or I’d be with him."
Being a third generation firefighter, Stettler tells us it’s important to uphold the responsibility.
Stettler says, "Not many people want to go out and do it so the only way to keep it going is to keep it in the family."
And their families couldn’t be prouder, especially Stettler’s grandfather.
Berry Sr. says, "I’m in my 51st year or firefighting. So when he was little, PopPop was at the fire station, PopPop was in parades and he saw what it was, he saw what went on and what was done. And his desire to follow not only myself but his father into this business, I can’t put into words."
Thank you for your service in Monroe County, Nicole Walters, News13.